• Prelude – Instrumental
  • Welcome & Prayer – Rev. Ohle
  • Call to Worship – When the Poor Ones, Edmond Music Collective
  • Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
  • Scripture Reading – Mark 1:4-11, Acts 19:1-7, Hebrews 10:1-10
  • Message – Something in the Water – Rev. Ohle
    • Special Video Message – Rev. Steven D. Martin
  • Closing Anthem – Something in the Water, Carrie Underwood
  • Benediction – Rev. Ohle
  • Postlude – Benediction, Edmonds Music Collective


Hello! I’m Rev. Val Ohle, pastor of Union Grove United Methodist Church in Friendsville and I want to welcome you to this morning’s worship service.

Today on this first Sunday after Epiphany, we’re beginning a new series called Journey with Jesus. Our journey begins on the day of Jesus’ baptism by his cousin, John, at the river Jordan. Over the coming weeks we’ll follow him into the wilderness, on a fishing trip, to a wedding, to a feast day celebration, to the temple, and to get a drink of water. So pack accordingly and put on your walking shoes. We have some miles to travel!

Also, I want to make you aware that we will be joining other churches across the nation on Tuesday, January 19, in a memorial tribute to honor all the victims of COVID-19.  We will begin ringing the bell at the church at 5:30 p.m. You are welcome to come to the church for this event, however, you will need to remain in your car and, if you roll your windows down, you’ll need to wear a mask. You are encouraged to pray for the families of the COVID victims as the bell rings.

If you’re financially able, please consider taking time to make weekly offerings. You can make them online through a secure service provided by Holston Conference or you can mail them in. The information is available on our website, at the end of this video, and in our weekly worship bulletins sent through our email list.

Let’s pray:

Most wonderful God, foolish and flawed though we are, we too delight in your beloved Son.

As in his name we gather in spirit and with many praises, may the heavens be opened for us, that we may catch a glimpse of that Light and Love that transforms our common days with a beauty not of our making.

Through Christ Jesus our Lord.


Please join me in this call to worship.

Today we celebrate a special baptism; the baptism of Jesus of Nazareth.

God says: Look! See my chosen servant, the One in whom I utterly delight;

I have placed my Spirit on him, he will bring true justice to the nations.

When Jesus was baptized, the heavens opened up, and Spirit came down like a dove; and there was a voice from heaven saying:

“This is my dearly loved Son, with whom I am delighted.”

The joy of the Lord be with you all.

And also with you.


This is the time we lift up our joys and concerns, our praises and our petitions. To protect the privacy of those we pray for, we do not say any names. Please know that I am lifting up any prayer requests you’ve sent me, and your unspoken prayers as well. There may be one or more moments of pause during the prayer for you to lift any prayers of your own. There may also be points in the prayer where you will be prompted to respond out loud.  Just watch the screen and if words appear in front of me, say them with me.

Let’s pray:

Lord, we come to you today, exposed, with the understanding that we have sinned against you.

We have done wrong in your sight and we asked that you show us your forgiving spirit. Forgive us of our sins that we may be able to forgive ourselves. Lord, we want to be pleasing in your sight.

We understand that our baptism was of water. It was a baptism of repentance. Today, we ask that you touch us, Lord, and baptize us in your Spirit. Pour out your Spirit upon us so that your sons and daughters may prophesy, Your young men may see visions, Your old men may dream dreams.

Baptize us, Lord, in your Holy Spirit, so that we may do your will.

Father, I don’t even know where to begin and I give thanks that I don’t need to because you know already what I’m struggling to put to words and you know the fears and worries in our hearts. As a people, God, we have surely and sorely and royally messed up over and over and over again … especially as your children.

One person in this country is dying from COVID every 21 seconds, Lord. Of course you know that, but it seems to escape far too many of us.  Please, God! Open our eyes and our hearts to the suffering of our people. Move us to show our love for one another by doing everything within our power to stop the spread of this virus – masks, handwashing, avoiding crowds, maintaining extra distance when we do have to go out and about, getting the vaccine when it’s our turn … these are such simple things, Lord. Help us accept our duty to our brothers and sisters to do these things for them.

And then there’s this whole … thing … going on in our land right now. So much hate, so much evil, eating away at us like a cancer. We’re crying them out to you, God, naming them outright and asking you to help us drive them from this land. We’re asking that you cast out the demons of discord and unrest, of disunity, of the sins of sedition, of white supremacy, of systemic racism, of marginalization and othering. We’re asking you to cast out the idolatrous worship of flags and politicians from our houses of worship. We’re asking that you guide us, Lord, lead us in a better way.

We ask these things today in the name of your Son, our Lord, and with the confidence of your children we pray the words he taught us to pray:

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. ”



O God, most holy and praised: As Your Son gathered disciples to himself to teach them your ways, so your Spirit has gathered us in this time and place. Make us alert and attentive as we read and reflect on Your scriptures; help us take them to heart and live into them so that your will is truly done on earth as in heaven. We pray in the name of our true Teacher, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Mark 1:4-11

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Acts 19:1-7

Now, it happened that while Apollos was away in Corinth, Paul made his way down through the mountains, came to Ephesus, and happened on some disciples there. The first thing he said was, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?”

“We’ve never even heard of that—a Holy Spirit? God within us?”

“How were you baptized, then?” asked Paul.

“In John’s baptism.”

“That explains it,” said Paul. “John preached a baptism of radical life-change so that people would be ready to receive the One coming after him, who turned out to be Jesus. If you’ve been baptized in John’s baptism, you’re ready now for the real thing, for Jesus.”

And they were. As soon as they heard of it, they were baptized in the name of the Master Jesus. Paul put his hands on their heads and the Holy Spirit entered them. From that moment on, they were praising God in tongues and talking about God’s actions. Altogether there were about twelve people there that day.

Hebrews 10:1-10

The old plan was only a hint of the good things in the new plan. Since that old “law plan” wasn’t complete in itself, it couldn’t complete those who followed it. No matter how many sacrifices were offered year after year, they never added up to a complete solution. If they had, the worshipers would have gone merrily on their way, no longer dragged down by their sins. But instead of removing awareness of sin, when those animal sacrifices were repeated over and over they actually heightened awareness and guilt. The plain fact is that bull and goat blood can’t get rid of sin. That is what is meant by this prophecy, put in the mouth of Christ: You don’t want sacrifices and offerings year after year; you’ve prepared a body for me for a sacrifice. It’s not fragrance and smoke from the altar that whet your appetite. So I said, “I’m here to do it your way, O God, the way it’s described in your Book.” When he said, “You don’t want sacrifices and offerings,” he was referring to practices according to the old plan. When he added, “I’m here to do it your way,” he set aside the first in order to enact the new plan—God’s way—by which we are made fit for God by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus.

The scriptures of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.

MESSAGE – Finding Faith …

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer. Amen.

Before I begin, I’d like to introduce you to a friend and fellow Holston clergyman, Rev. Steven D. Martin.  Rev. Martin is going to take us on the first leg of our journey …

[Holy land video]

There is something I want to share with you that I learned in my initial training to become a licensed pastor. Something I never knew until then, but that has stuck with me ever since. 

From the moment we are baptized, God begins calling us. From the moment the baptismal water touches our skin, He begins calling us.

Now think on that a moment.  Many of you, like me, were most likely baptized as infants. That makes the idea of being called since baptism kind of hard to fathom, especially if you … like me … have had more than a few years … okay, decades … of living a not so righteous life.

We were certainly far too young to understand the words being said over us …

On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you:

Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?

I do.

Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

I do.

Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?

I do.

Our parents and/or godparents and/or grandparents had to speak the “I do” responses for us and then had to answer for themselves:

Will you nurture these children (persons) in Christ’s holy Church, that by your teaching and example they may be guided to accept God’s grace for themselves, to profess their faith openly, and to lead a Christian life?

I will.

And the assurances continued and even the congregation was asked the questions and asked to be responsible for bringing the one being baptized up in the church.

And then the pastor blessed the water, everyone prayed and the pastor laid his hand on the top of each head and prayed, “The Holy Spirit work within you, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. Amen,” after which the pastor would mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross, declaring, “Valerie, child of God, you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.”

And from that moment, God would begin to call us as his own.  Looking back on my life … my decades of not so righteous living … I can testify to the truthfulness of that. Although it would be 57 years before I let myself consciously hear him call and before I answered him, I can recall many times when I subconsciously knew deep down inside that God was there. Proof that the seal the pastor placed on my forehead may have faded from time to time, but it held.

It would pay us all to remember the covenant of our baptisms. It’s serious stuff. We’re not only promising to repent, to accept Christ as our savior, but we’re also promising to make sure all those who have been baptized receive the loving care and instruction and support necessary for them and for us to become good disciples for Christ.

This is not to say that God can’t call someone who hasn’t been baptized. God most certainly can! Baptism wasn’t a traditional practice for the Hebrew people. Just last week we learned about how Mary and Joseph had taken Jesus to the temple to be circumcised … another way of “marking” male children as children of God.

But baptism by water is important. There’s something in that water … that act … that changes a person if you let it. There’s something in that water that lets Christ work within us.

This year is one where we especially need the light of Christ to resonate within our human experience most concretely. We need to find that light within as well as outside our experience. We need to remember that Christ works in us as well as beyond us.

This year is one where we need to remember our baptisms … even if we were baptized before our “rememberers” kicked in.  We need to remember what happened afterward. Because now is afterward. The life we live as baptized followers of Jesus is that afterward. The new creation that we choose to make of ourselves every single day of our lives is that afterward.

And the new creation that we are and are becoming is a curious mixture of Word and Spirit. There are Words pronounced over us at our baptism and there is Spirit conferred from the community of faith. And we are remade. A new creation, a fresh start. So we need reminders.

Of course we need reminders of our baptism. It is too much of an event to keep in our hearts all the time. We forget what a transformative moment baptism is. We forget that everything old is torn away, like the heavens were rent apart, as Mark says. We forget that our orientation is from that moment; our new life is claimed in that moment. We forget that what we are looking for, longing for, is already ours in that moment. We lose our grip; we forget it even happened. We are still running; we are still looking for what we already have.

Remember your baptism. It isn’t just an empty ritual for Sunday mornings. It is a way of living that keeps our eyes open for the descending doves of the Spirit. It is a choice that we can claim to embrace the possibilities in front of us instead of the doubts within us. It is an opportunity to know that we are loved and claimed and that whatever darkness is hiding away in our past or our hearts need not define us anymore. It is a family we’ve entered into, who will run with us as we search for what we are looking for, and who will avoid saying “told you so” when we realize what we are looking for has been with us all the time.

The story of Jesus’ baptism begins with John, and a river, then the tearing of heaven as everything gets remade; and a dove descends.

The tearing continues. The remaking continues. Our lives are constantly being taken apart and put back together. And whether we see it descending upon us like a dove or not, the Spirit is a constant companion throughout our lives. It is what inspires us to love and serve and learn and grow. It is what equips us to be a part of the body of Christ in unique and powerful ways. It is what tears us open to new ways of living, new ways of being.

And whether we hear it or not, the word that is spoken over us is a word of affirmation. God sees the light placed within us and pronounces it good. The voice proclaims, “you are my beloved, with you I am well pleased.” Not done, not complete, not perfect, but good. In God’s eyes, good.

Let’s pray:

God of the waters. Water of birth, moving us from safety into the world.

God of the waters. Water of connection, engaging the playful Spirit, the passionate Christ, the challenging God.

God of the waters. Water of life, sustaining, quenching, cleansing.

God of the waters. Water of trouble, journeying us from here to there, from the known to the unknown.

God of the waters. Birth us.  Connect us. Live in us. Trouble us.

Loving Father, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit, and revealed him as your dear Son. Thank you for making us your children by water and the Spirit. Keep us faithful to you throughout our lives. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.



Let us go out into the world with the understanding that we are in the world, but not of the world. We are indeed pilgrims in this barren land, and we come together being baptized both of water and of the Holy Spirit. Let the world marvel at our unity.

Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask when you go out, and get your COVID vaccination as soon as you’re eligible. God be with you.




Even though we can’t meet together in person, the church still has expenses that need to be met. If you are able, please consider making an offering or paying your tithes through the online service provided by Holston Conference. It’s safe. It’s free. It will help us continue ministry at Union Grove.

Just visit http://www.holston.org/churchoffering, and follow the instruction for making your offering.  When asked, please choose Smoky Mountain District and Union Grove UMC Blount – Friendsville.

If you are not comfortable using a debit or credit card online, you can mail your offerings/tithes to:

Smoky Mountain District
Holston Conference
PO Box 905
Alcoa TN 37701-0905

Please be sure to make your checks payable to Smoky Mountain District and write “Union Grove UMC Friendsville” on the memo line!